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Essays on aesthetics, poetics and terminology of literary studies

Anthology 2007 167 Pages

Art - Art Theory, General

Excerpt

CONTENTS

FOREWORD

1) “Stratum, Structure, and Genre” In : Publ. of the University of Tokyo, Lang. and Lit. Series (1973) 153 - 164.

2) “The Strata - Model in Poetics” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society for Germanistics in Tokyo (20. 5. 1989)

3) “The Main Differences Between Roman Ingarden's and Nicolai Hartmann's Strata - Systems” In : Acta Humanistica 19/3, For. Lang. and Lit. S. 17 (June 1990) 64 - 82.

4) “On Beardsley's View of the Artistic Process” In: Acta Humanistica 24/1, Human. S. No. 21 (1994) 334 - 340.

5) “Our Concept of Art in Light of the Strata Theory” In : Acta Humanistica 26/3, For. Langs. and Lit. S. 23 (1996) 50 - 61.

6) “Interactive Fiction: What Does it Want to Be, What Can it Be?” In: Acta Humanistica 27/4, Human. S. No. 24 (1997) 98 - 129.

7) “Central Concepts of Aesthetics: A Proposal For Their Application” In: Acta Humanistica, Humanities S. No. 26 (1999) 203 - 222.

8) „On the Relationship of Comparative Literature to ‚Strata Poetics’, and ‚Fundamental Poetics’“ in: Acta Humanistica et Scientifica Universitatis Sangio Kyotiensis, Humanities Series No. 27 (March 2000) 221 - 241.

9) “Cabaret Songs” In: Popular Music and Society, Vol. 25 3/4 (2001) 45 - 71.

10) “East And West And The Concept of Literature” In: Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, Vol. XXIV, Nos. 1 - 2 (2001) 89 - 125.

Stratum, Structure, and Genre; Interrelation of the Terms

Abstract

The concept of genre can be satisfactorily explained only in com­parison with the concepts of stratum and structure. Proceeding from this conviction we shall try here to establish a demarcation of these often used terms and at the same time prove their interdependence

Stratum

The strata - model has been fully and consistently developed only in Nicolai Hartmann's ontology [1], which also represents a synthesis of all prior strata - conceptions. Since we do not attempt a historical survey a summary of his main ideas may suffice here:

The world is stratified. The strata, however, should not be confus­ed with the classes of animals. "The higher forms, out of which the world consists, plant, animal, man and nation, are stratified also; the strata that constitute the world can also be shown in them. In this respect man is a material an organic, an emotional and an intellectual being: he consists of four levels. The community of humans, e. g. the Greek polis, also has in its geographical situation a material structure. It has its organic life, its drives and needs, from which its economi­cal sphere arises, and also an emotional and intellectual life. Higher animals and the spiritless prehistoric consciousness of man have three levels; lower animals and plants have only two. In its extension the material stratum is the largest. The higher the level the less far spread it is. Only on a small part of inorganic existence is the organic built, and only in the most highly developed of these organic forms do we find emotions. Only one kind of creature has mind. " [2]

When all structures of a lower level become elements constituting a higher one, Hartmann speaks of "over - molding" (Überformungsverhältnis), which applies to the step from the material to the organic stratum. The "overbuilding - relation" (Überbauungsverhältnis) of the next two strata differs from it in that only some of the categories of the lower level enter the higher one. "The principal difference be­tween the psychic level and the two lower ones lies in the spaceless­ness and the inwardness of the psychic contents ('psycho - physical de­marcation line'). The spiritual stratum again differs from the emo­tional mostly in its supra - individuality. " [3]

As opposed to the simple categories the fundamental ones determine all four strata. From the latter the "categorical laws" are derived, the fixation of which is one of the main achievements of this system. In the last analysis it is not important for us, whether we agree with Hart­mann in every single point or whether we further subdivide his strata. However, from his "Laws of categorical dependency" it follows, that the four basic strata may not be re - arranged, even if they may be subdivided in different ways (as Hartmann himself does in his Ästhetik). For the lower stratum is always stronger ("law of strength") and autonomous ("law of independence"), but supplies the matter for the higher level ("law of matter"), which in its turn has room for high­er principles ("law of freedom").

Here we can only mention, that these strata - principles find them­selves in complete accordance with the most important strata - models in psychology and anthropology, the synthesis and elaboration of which we owe to Erich Rothacker" [4].

Hartmann has developed the most comprehensive strata model not only for general ontology, but also for esthetics" [5]. The work of art is at once product and expression of man and therefore stratified like him [6]. That the strata of the artifact are more finely distinguished from each other does not conceal their being based on the ontological ones. In the literary work of art Hartmann differentiates seven levels, progres­sing from the exterior to the interior: 1) the real foreground or "real stratum" (words and writing); 2) the unreal foreground or in be­tween - stratum, also occasionally called "second foreground of appearing perceptibility, directly evident by means of fantasy"; he also occasionally talks of "intermediary strata" and then divides "the sphere of the exterior, of bodily movement, mimetic expression, speech" from the "le­vel of plots, of exterior attitudes, of actions and reactions" (3) and from this the "level of psychic formation, of emotions and moods" (4) and that of fate (5); on the unreal foreground rests the "unreal back­ground" (or the "last background - levels") which is ideal and supra - ­empirical, with its "level of the individual or personality idea" (6) and the level of "the universally human and the ideas" (7).

Specifically for the literary work of art the Polish philosopher Ro­man Ingarden [7] developed another strata - model. Ingarden was interest­ed in linguistics. He distinguished five strata: 1) that of words and higher linguistic units; 2) that of units of meaning of different levels, syntactical structures; 3) that of "manifold schematized views, in which appear the presented objects"; 4) that of the presented objects and their fates, "which are depicted in the intentional circumstances, indicated by sentences"; 5) that of the expressed idea, of metaphysical qualities, essences.

A comparison of Hartmann's and Ingarden's subdivisions yields the following [8]:

a. Hartmann's real - stratum (1) is subdivided by Ingarden. The dis­tinction of words and units of meaning is paralleled in painting by that in colors and black - and - white tones as basic structural elements on the one hand and lines (respectively proportions, given by the for­mer) on the other. The units of meaning ("meaning of sentences") are only made possible by the syntactical coordination of words; si­milarly contours and proportions by the coordination of colors and black - and - white tones. (These comparisons with other fields of art may be taken here as playfully non - committal. Since strata - theories are "spe­culative" in comparison to exact science, there is no reason, why a cur­sory allusion to parallels should not be justified by their "categorical dependency". ) In an even more daring parallel we are also reminded of the relation of inorganic and organic existence: as words gain a func­tion for the units of meaning only in the context of sentences, and as colors can only relate to each other in contours and proportions, so inorganic matter finds shape, purpose and meaning only within an or­ganism and its matrix of functions. A general distinction between the strata of matter and of organized or structured matter is therefore justified.
b. Ingarden's level of "presented objects and their fates" (4) corres­ponds approximately to Hartmann's "intermediary levels" (2 - 5), name­ly the "sphere of the exterior" (2), the level of actions (3), the "psy­chic formation" (4), and stratum of fate (5) together. Here Hartman who is more interested in the experience in poetry, differentiates more finely. Again these intermediary strata are rightly isolated, if only be­cause they do not appear solely in poetry. For example in Fine Arts the coordination (2) of matter (1) renders possible the depiction of visible objects (3) that are usually familiar to us as environment. De­pictions, however, are first lifeless, until through artful formation and our associations the appearance of movement, and with it that of life (4), arises. But we would not see life in forms, if those were not at least partially taken from our customary environment, if they did not have representational quality (3). Again we can extend the compari­son with the ontological strata because of the dependency: As move­ment can only be seen in representational (3) configurations (2), bio­logical life needs the strata of the organic and the inorganic in order to exist (on them). The psychological or emotional (5) is again only possible in animated creatures, its appearance in art correspondingly only in matter (1), that is arranged (2) in such a way, that it depicts sections of our environment (3) and that it lets us associate movement (4) in them. (In painting there is no need for the depiction of "agita­ted", "stirring" or "moving" battle scenes in order to evoke life. The "lively" glance of a person on a portrait suffices in order to ren­der emotion. ) Where the psychic is not seen merely momentarily but rather in time dimensions, where as a result we can follow exterior and interior development or even survey the whole of a life, there we may speak of a further stratum (6). Again it becomes immediately evident, that the more complex level rests on the simpler one: with­out the description of single psychological moments a development can not be rendered. This stratum is more strongly developed in poetry, which is "Zeitkunst" (art as a progress in time), especially in epic and dramatic literature. But even a short lyrical poem by Sappho can depict fate, just as a late portrait by Rembrandt.
c. There is no parallel in Hartmann's model for lngarden's stratum of "manifold schematized views" (3). We can only conjecture, that Hartmann would have rejected a "stratum" of this sort as non - compa­rable to the others. It does not belong to the phenomena as such, but applies rather to our recognition of them (point of view). Ingarden's observations on the concre(tisa)tion of the literary work of art and on the important role of hazy spots ("Unbestimmtheitsstellen") are ex­tremely valuable, however, they say more about our assimilation of li­terature rather than about its ontological structure.
d. Ingarden's stratum of "metaphysical qualities" (5) is again sub­divided by Hartmann and corresponds to those of the "individual idea" (6) and of the "universally human" (7). These two final background strata seem to parallel the two preceding ones, in each case the first relating to a momentary experience and the second to a chain of experience, to fate. But they differ in their "ideal, supra - empirical" character, which is described by Hartmann in another place as quality of the spiritual level [9]. In my opinion the concept "exemplary" would describe better the supra - personal and supra - temporal element, that con­cerns each person and therefore makes the formation of persons as well as their fates in Goethe's sense significant ("bedeutend"). For in the last analysis these strata are also abstracted from experience, and therefore not really "supra - empirical".
e. Strictly speaking one could discern three levels of the unreal back­ground: A) the exemplary figure, B) the exemplary fate, and C) the philosophical conception of the world, creeds, ideologies, world - experi­ence of the poet, e. g. Kafka's anxiety, Brecht's didactic - satirical atti­tude, or Kleist's tragic outlook, as well as that of complete "schools" like that of the Theatre of the Absurd. Hartmann and Ingarden doubt­less conceived as their final stratum this all encompassing background. However they did not think of the exemplary character of an indivi­dual's fate like that of Wallenstein, Othello or Faust. Even in these "final background strata" the ontological relation of dependency can still be shown: an exemplary experience of the world (9) can only be rendered on the foil of exemplary figures (7) or exemplary fates (8) or both. Personalities and their fates, however, first have to be de­scribed as such (5 and 6) in order to have exemplary impact, etc.

The comparison of Ingarden's and Hartmann's strata - models indi­cates a possible synthesis, which is offered here in the form of a table [10]:

1) Material: Words, Colors, Tones, Stone etc. (corresp. inorganic world)
2) Coordinated Material (configuration, arrangement etc. )
3) Depiction in Coordinated Material (corresp. organic world)
4) Movement and Life - Appearance in (at least partially) Representa­tional Coordinated Material (corresp. biolog. world)
5) Psychological Moments in Lifelike, Representational, Coordinate Material (corresp. psychic world)
6) Fate in a Sequence of Psychological Moments of Lifelike, Repre­sentational, Coordinated Material
7) Exemplary (Supra - Personal and - Temporal) Meaning in Psychologi­cal Moments (in level 5), the Typical Features in Personalities
8) Exemplary Meaning in Fate (level 6)
9) Creeds, Ideologies, World - Experience of the Poet (last three levels corresponding to spiritual world).

Our scheme should accommodate all kinds of literary and pictorial art.

Structure:

By now it becomes apparent, that, what we usually call structure in a literary work of art, is nothing but the interaction of its above men­tioned strata. Analysis of structure is therefore really analysis of strata; and this doubtless was in Kayser's or Staiger's mind, when they un­derstood the concept of structure as does Herman Meyer: "Form and content are both material in the literary work of art. They belong to its structure in so far as they interact and help constitute the esthetic order of the work" [11].

The distinction of subject (theme or topic), form and content (meaning or message) is not contradictory to the strata - model, however, in comparison rather coarse - meshed. Nicolai Hartmann has opened our eyes to the fact, that even the form of art is always graded or stratified" [12], that is to say, each stratum has its own form. That is already evident from the fact that we can ask for each stratum (from material to world experience) with WHAT as well as with HOW. If, for example, we deal in the second stratum of poetry with sensibly ordered word material, we would still have to ask, how it is ordered (style). The various levels can only exist in a certain form. It is therefore as senseless to ask for the form of a li­terary work of art, as it is naive, to confuse the content with the ma­terial of poetry. For the content has, according to our model, at least four levels. The formation can apply to the psychological as well as to the representational or the word material. Even the meaning can com­prise four to five levels.

Structural analysis has always rightly stressed the interaction of levels more than the levels themselves; Hartmann shows that "the for­mation of a single stratum, isolated, taken for itself, is not esthetic formation at all. The latter only begins with the succession of formations of various kinds. " [13]

If we take as "meaning of poetry" for a moment its last three levels, we would have to ask: How is it conveyed? The answer is: As in life. It is usually not stated directly, but appears in the external beha­vior of man, often merely in a small, but typical segment of his environ­ment, in short: in what is depicted by the preceding strata. The useful term transparency (Transparenz) therefore is to be understood as a shining of the last levels through the first ones.

Why does the poet have to choose this detour, as Goethe demanded so emphatically? Because he can only make us "see", whatever he wants to show. The strata become increasingly more abstract as they recede. If he supplies us merely with psychological concepts, we have to flesh them out with intuition and imagination.

What about the shrewd distinction of "intention of the author” and “intention of the work" [14], if we take "intention" here for a moment in the sense of our ninth stratum? - It proves to be wrong and mislead­ing, since it intimates the notion, anything could "flow into" the work that does not come (consciously or unconsciously) from the author. With our views concerning the basic conformity of strata in the au­thor and in his work, it becomes easily understandable, that not only the conscious levels of the poet's personality shape the work, but also the unconscious ones (in varying degrees according to the type of au­thor). This unconscious transference can even be extended: The poet is shaped by unconscious influences from his environment. In turn he shapes his work, which in its turn projects unconscious stimuli back into the environment (its audience).

Genre:

Structures, that qualify especially well as vehicles for expression of our standard experiences, are repeated with slight variations. We call them genres. The strata of the literary work of art solidify at the same time into the individual structure of the specific work and into the relatively constant structure of the genre, depending on one's point of view. Therefore genres can be defined as groupings of litera­ture with resemblances in the structure of their strata that especially qualify them for expressing basic human attitudes (Grundhaltungen) and experiences (Grunderlebnisse). From their “only relative” constancy (which they have in common with other concepts in the humanities as opposed to those in the natural sciences) it follows, that they are not limiting but rather accentuating concepts (Idealbegriffe). Various genres are fixed structurally in varying degrees, e. g. the sonnet more so than the novel.

Their strata are held together by the same double dependency which also characterizes each single literary work: On the one hand each level can only exist on those under it; on the other hand its character is determined by higher ones. " [15]

Only literature of a grand scope (epic poem, novel, drama) develops all levels, and even those not in the same degree. But it seems, that in the single work as well as in a genre no intermediary level may be omitted totally, since the next higher one always has to rest on it. Even lyrical poetry, which does not contain action and conflicts and which goes directly from the sphere of the external (2) or of the representa­tional (3) to the stratum of moods and emotions, the psychological (5), only seems to constitute an exception. In reality even here the level of actions or life in movement (4) is not omitted totally: The voice as­sumed by the poet (das "sprechende Ich") with which we identify as much as with the epic or dramatic figure, substitutes for the miss­ing level; without it the literary work could not exist. For even if it often seems so, it is impossible, that things speak to us directly. They are dead without the personal perspective of the "lyrical I", however much the latter may be fused with them. Nevertheless the characteris­tic manner and intensity, in which the lyrical speaker is still present, do contribute to the distinction of lyrical genres like sonnet and song. (New perspectives may be gained for the examination of so - called "con­crete poesy" from our view. See last annotation. )

The "ontological" as well as the "phenomenological" description of genre does not exclude the historical one; rather it founds and com­plements it. If one knows, how something is constituted (ontological de­scription) and why (psychological - ), the question of the historical and sociological circumstances, under which it developed in a specific way, is still not made superfluous. On the other hand one only fully understands the history and environmental relation of any phenomenon following an ontological examination.

The genre - concept has to be differentiated from several related ca­tegories in literary scholarship [15]: 1) basic human attitudes of experiencing the world, that are also reflected in literature (Grundhaltun­gen); since Romanticism three are most commonly distinguished: the lyrical, the epical and the dramatic; occasionally a fourth one is asserted, e. g. the didactical or artistic [16]; 2) the effects of these basic attitudes as corresponding elements that can be traced in language, "the Lyri­cal, the Epic, the Dramatic" ; (these substantivated adjectives are joined by others, that can be distinguished from them only with difficulties, e. g. "the Didactical, the Comical, the Tragical, the Grotesque or the Absurd) ; 3) still abstract groupings of literary works of art, in which one of the basic attitudes over - forms the others, the basic concepts "Lyric poetry, dramatic poetry, epic poetry" etc. ("Grundbegriffe" in Staiger's terminology); 4) specified basic concepts in varying degrees of demarcation, like "philosophical lyric poetry" or "didactic philo­sophical poetry"; 5) collective names that, aim at form, but are not yet specified as strongly as genres, e. g. "poem, play or prose"; 6) sub - divisions of genres according to form or content, which we should call kinds and (further sub - divided) types.

According to these "pyramids of classification" one could see e. g. the detective novel as a type of the more comprehensive kind of mys­tery novel that is distinguished merely by its central figure (e. g. Sherlock Holmes). The mystery novel, however, is distinguished from the still more comprehensive genre, novel, by its content (crime) and its suspense (the riddle: "Whodunit"). The novel belongs to the epi­cal works, therefore to the basic concept Epic poetry. In them the epic basic attitude outweighs the others (in spite of the dramatic elements that can be shown particularly well in the mystery novel). Formally they all belong at the same time to the collective name, prose.

The question, whether a survey of the history of literary genres en­ables us to predict their future development, has to be negated because of their interior determination. Since "forms" do not have a life of their own, but depend on "content", we would have to predict the con­tent of future literature first in order to make a guess, in which forms it might be expressed. However, in order to guess right, we would first have to establish laws of correlation between "content" and "form", secondly we would have to forbid the development of new forms.

However, that a new experience of the world (Zeitgeist) can create astounding parallels in the transformation of contemporary genres, can be shown empirically with genres, that are considered to be 'typical" for the 20. Century, e. g. the Short Story, the Nouveau Roman, the One - Act - Play, and the Theatre of the Absurd [17].

The Strata Model in Poetics (Schichtenpoetik) [1]

I. The Strata Model

New concepts and models of thinking can precipitate new insights by giving a fresh direction to our observations and showing us what to look for. One very productive model for viewing complex phenomena in literature is the “strata” concept, a way of distinguishing in literature layers or levels, similar to geological strata. To our knowledge, Plato[2]was the first to use a strata model for his description of the psychological functions of man, in which he uses the metaphor of a chariot driver. Since Romanticism we encounter traces of strata models more frequently, especially in psychology. Sigmund Freud[3]made them famous with his strata of the id, the ego, and the superego. He realized, of course, that such spatial models are imperfect means for describing psychological processes and relationships. The German philosopher, Max Scheler [4], used the model in 1916 for a description of emotional life. His pupil, Nicolai Hartmann [5], finally built a complete ontological, ethical, and aesthetic system of philosophy on the strata model. In addition to depth - psychology and philosophy, strata models have been used successfully in other areas. In 1938, Erich Rothacker [6]gave us a summary of their application to anthropology and characterology. Many other disciplines (like brain physiology, biology, and pedagogy) also adopted the strata model. [7]Roman Ingarden[8], the Polish[18] philosopher and pupil of the founder of Phenomenology, Edmund Husserl [9], first used it in large scale.

The application of a strata model to the analysis of literature is mainly pragmatically motivated. The literary scholar or the interpreter of literature is less concerned with philosophical insights than with an objective comprehension of the literary work. Beyond that, s/he wishes to understand other, mainly psychological, phenomena observable within a literary context. Thus strata poetics is justified as a tool of cognition and systematization only insofar as it yields insights , which could not have been gained otherwise. The philosophical dispute as to the justification of strata models as such will be of no concern in this paper.

Strata models are systems of categories that we project upon phenomena in order to make sense of them. They correspond to a synthetic mode of thinking, which attempts to strike a balance between the observation of universal laws and the description of individual characteristics. Like most concepts in the humanities, they do not limit, but rather serve to accentuate observed phenomena. They group together certain aspects of literature into unified strata of systems which can be said to stand in a relation to one another comparable to that of psychological strata within the human personality.

The correspondence between the stratification of the human personality and that of its products, especially the work of art, can be understood in psychological terms: when an artist creates a work of art, he does so under the influence of the various strata of his personality. These strata can participate in differing degrees (creating more “emotional” or “cerebral” art, for example). In the process of reception, corresponding psychological strata in the audience will resonate in varying degrees. (e. g. , the work of art will have a mainly “emotional” or “cerebral” impact). In this way it can be explained that not all art appeals equally to any receiver. A degree of “readiness” granted by a correspondence in the strata - structure between artist, work of art, and receiver will promote the reception of art.

Because of the comparability of the stratification of the literary work of art on the one hand, and of the personality of the poet and of the receiver on the other, strata models point beyond the literary realm. If strata are to be viewed as categories applicable to both the human personality and its products, they must correspond to ontological as well as to psychological laws.

II. Hartmann and Ingarden

Hartmann and Ingarden are the only two thinkers who applied strata models systematically to aesthetic phenomena, but neither compared his findings with the others. [10]

While systematic studies of the “ambiance” of literary works and of certain relationships in style between various arts gained more and more acceptance, a theoretical inquiry into ontological questions as to the different modes of existence of various forms of art was generally avoided. However, it is only in comparison to the ontological structure of other kinds of art (that is, their varying “stratification”) that literature can be fully understood.

Roman Ingarden has had a notable impact on literary theory, starting with the so called “immanent interpretation” school [11]in Germany following World War II and continuing in some American publications that look back to Husserl’s phenomenology and its usefulness for the cognition of literature [12] - Nicolai Hartmann, on the other hand, seems to be forgotten for the time being. [13]His works on ethics are known to some specialists in religion, but his theories of aesthetics, based on the same ontological strata model, seem to be widely unknown. Even works in cultural anthropology that use the same model, or a very similar one, mention him only sparingly or not at all. Considering the importance of his basic premises and the richness of his observations, this is an injustice and should be corrected. [14]

One of the first problems one encounters in comparing these two attempts at a stratified theory of art is whether one should design individual strata models for each art (music, painting, sculpture, literature, etc. ) or, instead, one comprehensive model[19] accommodating all of them. The former method was used by Ingarden whereas Hartmann used one comprehensive model. It seems, however, that one of the greatest benefits of “Strata aesthetics”, namely the possibility of comparing, describing, and defining the arts according to the way they use the available strata, would be lost if we used different models. For the purpose of comparative analysis one comprehensive system serves us better than many since, as stated previously, strata models are merely systems of categories, which we project upon phenomena in order to better distinguish them.

Such a unified system should also be based on the ontological strata model, encompassing inorganic, organic, emotional, and spiritual [20] levels of existence in the world, since works of art are anchored in reality. We project the same categories simultaneously on art as well as on its surrounding reality. By using the same strata, we are enabled to compare art objects with other objects in ontological terms. The simple division into four levels of existence (material, biological, psychological, and intellectual, or whatever they may be called) can be further subdivided for aesthetic considerations, but its sequence cannot be changed. This claim may be justified by the following quotation from Hartmann: “The same strata that could be shown in the real world can also be found in the work of art and have to be run through by the spectator: first a material level (in the work of art, probably two), then one of life[lyness], then one of emotion, and finally a spiritual one. ” [15]

Another reason for following Hartmann in this respect is the fact that Ingarden, in contrast to Hartmann, finds his strata simply by a phenomenological analysis of the arts. In Ingarden’s later book, The Recognition of the Literary Work of Art [21] , he describes the ways in which we realize the various strata. However, he never goes so far as to demonstrate points of correspondence between the strata in the personality structure of the artist and the receiver on the one hand, and the aesthetical structure of the work of art on the other hand. One reason for this is that Ingarden, at least officially, was not interested in the psychological aspects of literature. He also did not apply strata models to human beings, which had been the main concern of psychology and anthropology for quite a while, as best demonstrated by Rothacker’s book. Rothacker even indicated points of correspondence in strata between human beings and their world of experience as stated in the following quote: “. . . substantial strata, characterized by autonomous laws, correspond to their correlated ‘environments’ . . . zones of meaning, aimed only at them, which they derive from reality according to their intrinsic organization, and which offer them stimulation. ”[22] - If we consider that not only art but also nature, and even inanimate environments can provide us with an aesthetic experience, we can better understand Rot hacker’s meaning. “Manipulated” nature or environments (such as gardens, flower arrangements, or architecture) form a transition from art to “real” (or un - manipulated) nature.

Hartmann, as mentioned before, bases his complete ontology on a strata model. This allows him to see the work of art as “just another” stratified object. Granted, this object may have a more complex stratification than any other kind, but nevertheless it is based on the ontological model. We will later see that this enables him and us to more clearly define so far unexplained phenomena through the use of points of correspondence in the particular strata between author, receiver, the work of art itself, and the world in which it participates. [23]- In this way, we attain a system whereby the strata are connected in two directions, namely “from the bottom up” (each stratum is supported ontologically by the one “below”, its existence made ontologically possible by the one beneath it) and “from the top down” (each stratum is structurally determined by the one above it).

We cannot detail here the other problems connected with establishing a model of this kind. [24]It suffices to state that one of Ingarden’s strata[25]had to be discarded entirely, since it did not seem to have ontological validity. It is important though that those strata, which were retained (or newly established), obey the two ontological laws agreed upon by Ingarden and Hartmann. These are, in short: 1. The strata can be subdivided in varying degrees, but their basic order may not be changed. 2. The lower stratum is always stronger and autonomous, but supplies the material for the higher level, which in turn has room for higher principles.

III. Synthesis of Hartmann’s and Ingarden’s [18] Strata Models

The following is a brief sketch of a combination of Ingarden’s and Hartmann’s strata:

(1) The first stratum, the MATERIAL of the work, corresponds to the inorganic stratum in ontological systems. Under “material” one understands color, stone, clay, etc. , and in literature the words of language, which are already “objectified spirit”(Scheler), this making the strata relationship in literature especially complex.
(2) The ORDER in material, its coordination and the mutual relationship of its parts, which makes possible and determines the appearance of other strata, but must not be confused with the formation of all strata.
(3) The REPRESENTATIONAL ASPECT of ordered material, the apparent objectivity, corresponding to the organic stratum in the ontological system.
(4) The appearance of MOTION and LIFE in (at least partially) representationally ordered material, corresponding to the biological - animalistic world.
(5) The (still momentary) PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECT in lifelike, representationally ordered material, feelings and moods together with their expressive character, corresponding to the psychic stratum in the ontological system.
(6) ACTION or the TEMPORAL CONTINUUM in psychologically expressive, lifelike, representationally ordered material.
(7) Depiction of PERSONALITY in material which is experienced in a temporal continuum, and is psychologically expressive, lifelike, and representationally ordered.
(8) The SYMBOLIC, SIGNIFICANT, SUPRA - PERSONAL, and SUPRA - TEMPORAL aspect (which concerns us all) of the FATE of a personality (see above), corresponding to the intellectual stratum in the ontological system.
(9) The general WAY OF FEELING ABOUT THE WORLD, the ATTITUDE TOWARD IT, EXPERIENCE OF IT, and IDEAS (“Weltanschauung”) of the poet, expressed by the exemplary nature of the fate of a personality, (as above).

Read from “front to rear”(as presented here), the nine strata of this model become increasingly abstract and general. As I have attempted to express in my formulation, each stratum makes the subsequent one ontologically possible. At the same time, the forming of the more abstract strata determines the forming of the strata that sustain them. For literary works of art, the foreground and middle strata are decisive. The background strata concern psychology and philosophy just as much as they do aesthetics. This model should be applicable to all forms of (at least partially) representational art, though not to art which is completely non - objective.

IV. Advantages of Strata Models

The advantage of strata models lies in their clarification of abstract relationships of characteristics and complexes of characteristics. There is, however, the danger of interference by geological or biological notions. The concept pairs “high - low”, “above - below”, “exterior - interior”, or even “outer - inner” or “shallow - deep”, may suggest incorrect ideas of space. The character of literature as art consists precisely in the appearance (Erscheinen) of several qualitatively different strata, one behind the other. Therefore, it might be more appropriate to speak of foreground, middle, and background strata.

The only justification for a system of this kind lies in its usefulness, which can be ascertained by asking: what can it make us see that we could not see without it? – Below a few examples for possible applications starting with insights of a general scope and ending with more specific observations.

V. The Question: What is Art?

In comparison to other kinds of objects (e. g. , a practical object or commodity like a chair, or a pragmatic literary genre with mainly informative functions, e. g. , a scientific treatise), the work of art can be now defined in its ontological uniqueness. [26] It differs, at least potentially, from all other objects in the richness of its stratification. Our special relationship to art can be explained by the fact that only art has as many strata as our own personality structure. Our aesthetic experience consists in penetrating several strata, from the texture of the foreground to the last strata of meaning. In contrast, the contemplation of a chair carries us, at best, through three strata: (1) the material, (2) its order, and (3) the function, purpose or usefulness of the object. A scholarly tract might present us with something that resembles eight of our strata, however in a different relationship. In art (e. g. , a novel) one stratum appears behind another, as in real life (e. g. , meaning behind the mimic expression of an agitated face), whereas in pragmatic language, the contents of other strata are merely “talked about” or “referred to”, one at a time. The strata are not “built” on one another.

This circumvention of mediating strata is only possible in language because of the double function of its first stratum, material. The material of the other arts (color, clay, tones, etc. ) is mere “material” and only gains meaning in its configuration in later strata. On the other hand, the material of language, namely the words, is already charged with meaning, or as Max Scheler would have said, it is already “objectified intellect”. This kind of meaning, adhering to our words by long established convention, is also used for non - artistic, theoretical statements. Language can therefore be used in two ways: one way resembles the use of color to build, stratum by stratum, a world that acquires meaning. The other way is a linguistic system that combines symbols with pre - established meaning.

In the first, artistic, mode, the artist guides us through one stratum after another. We are made to experience them, each “appearing” behind the other, as in real life. The poet might describe a person in some characteristic activity and make us interpret the psychological meaning of these actions, as we would in an actual encounter. The poet does not formulate the meaning directly. - In the pragmatic mode, however, an author would theorize about psychological processes by naming them with abstract and precise terms. - Of course, both ways can be used in combination, For example, an author can allow a person to theorize and thereby characterize himself. Or an author can sketch reality alternately through description and direct statements. - Distinctions of this complexity between poetic and theoretical prose can best be made with the help of the strata model.

VI. The Comparison (“mutual illumination”) of the Arts

The special character of any kind of art can be much better described by use of the strata concept. A classic example of a problem that could not be solved before the arrival of strata aesthetics is that of the special position of music within the other arts. [27]- How many strata does music normally have? Ingarden said only one, whereas Hartmann distinguished several. - If more than one, how is it possible that music, as an “abstract art”, obviously can dispense with the middle stratum (of representation of appearing reality) without the higher strata collapsing? In general terms: how can music impress us with (and elicit in us) emotion, or even “Weltanschauung” (world view) as in great works such as Beethoven’s Ninth or Bach’s Passion of St. Matthews, and yet contain no appearing reality (human beings, landscapes, etc. ) in which or “behind which” emotions could appear? What allows us to skip one or more strata and still have powerful emotional experiences?

Careful stratological analysis reveals that this is because in the second stratum in music the material is coordinated in two ways, “vertically” (in harmonies that could be compared to color combinations in a painting) and “horizontally” (in motifs, melodies, etc. , that develop in time). What the painting looses by its static character in the second stratum, it has to re - gain by the concreteness of its third stratum. In the fine arts, we have to project (by way of association) movement and the experience of liveliness into the objects and persons depicted in the third stratum. - In music, this is not necessary since the sounds themselves move in time (the time of performance), unfold in melodies, increase and fade away in crescendi and decrescendi. The experience of movement, the fourth stratum, is promoted by the musical time structure and can therefore “rest” directly on the second stratum of coordinated material. The omission of the third stratum (of depicted reality) therefore only seems to make an exception to the ontological laws of stratification, according to which each stratum has to be supported by the next lower (more concrete) one. Music is the only art that can afford to be abstract (non representational) and still convey emotional experience because its very medium is motion in time. Motion for us contains expression because we are used to experiencing it as the expression of something alive. Fast motions we call “lively”. Lack of motion is being experienced as “lifeless”. Therefore, we project emotional qualities directly into the (real) motion of music, just as into the (associated) motion of depicted reality in a painting. Therefore, in music, the stratum of coordinated material can carry emotional qualities ontologically. [28]

VII. Marxist Theory and the Strata Model

Even sociological aspects of literature can be illuminated with the help of the strata model, if we do not limit its application to the observation of phenomena within literature (the same is done by psychological and psycho - analytical interpretation[17]). As an example, let us refer briefly to the old topic of discussion between Marxists and their adversaries, whether literature is determined by economics, and if so, how? - This questions the kind of relationship existing between the socioeconomic base of society and the cultural superstructure that includes literature. Let us recall Marx’s famous statement of 1859[29]: “The ways of material production determine the social, political, and intellectual life process. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their modes of existence, but rather their social existence that determines their consciousness. ” Engels illustrated this in 1845 with an example[30]: “Raffael, as well as any other artist, is determined by previous technical progress in the arts, by the organization of society and division of labor where he lived . . . Whether an individual like Raffael is able to develop his talent depends completely on the demand for his talent. This, in turn, is dependent on the division of labor and the resulting progress in education. ”

Originally, our consciousness was seen merely as a reflection of the outside world. However, as Lenin noticed this reflection of reality in our consciousness is “not a simple, unmediated, mirror - like, dead activity, but rather a complicated, ambiguous one in zigzag - curves that entails the possibility of phantasy evading life. ”[31]Later, in 1890, Engels refined his economic determinism when he admitted that economic conditions cannot directly influence the intellectual life of a nation. They can only affect the political stratum next to them and will reach the cultural level only via intermediaries. Peter Demetz[32]summarizes these more sophisticated visions:

“Engels’ letters of his late years sketch a hierarchically ordered conception of economies and creative intellect. The economic basis seems to be expanded through the influence of Taine’s concepts; the superstructure unfolds into a surprising complexity of intellectual fields. The relationship between foundation and superstructure is now characterized by the possibility of mutual interaction; moreover, this interaction is subject to the scientifically indeterminate effects of ‘a whole series of accidents’. There is no longer a direct contact between more distant spheres; economics may exert its influence upon the neighboring area of politics, but it can no longer force the more distant sphere of literature directly under its tyranny. The more abstract fields of the superstructure are only lightly touched by economic impulses, which, in turn, are subjected to serious metamorphoses on their way through the intermediate levels. Undoubtedly the creative intellect acquires a new dignity: the higher its achievement rises above the economic basis, the more freely the laws of its own being will operate once more. ”

It is remarkable that here also the ontological laws of stratification are valid, i. e. , that each stratum has to “rest” on another, and that none can be skipped. Which strata could be distinguished was indicated in 1955 by S. W. Plechanow[34]: “The artistic activity is one of those which are most removed from the economic base. [. . . ] We have here the following: 1. the state of productive forces, 2. economy, 3. social order [. . . ], 4. psychology, 5. ideology”. How much these strata resemble the ontological ones does not have to be shown. In a similar manner, Engels analyzed the relationship in 1890. For Stalin these stratified interactions were too complicated. [34]He denied any intermediary steps between base and superstructure. Sophisticated Marxists, like Georg Lukacs [15], even recognized the possibility of a twofold determination: an ontological one “from the bottom up”, and a structural one “from the top down”. Once the upper strata have been established, they have a life of their own to a certain degree, and can influence the lower ones. All kinds of tension can develop between cultural strata, i. e. , those that have no real base any longer in the lower one, and the socioeconomic base. But finally, according to all Marxists, the lower strata are going to win out. - After so many refinements have been built into the basic Marxist doctrine, even many “bourgeois” scholars would probably agree. -

Among the more narrowly defined problems that Strata Poetics might be able to offer solutions to, the following might be representative:

VIII. Structure

By now it becomes apparent that what we usually call “structure” in a literary work of art is nothing but the interaction of its strata as described above. Analysis of structure is therefore really analysis of strata, and this doubtlessly was in Wolfgang Kayser’s or Emil Staiger’s mind when they explained the concept of structure. Herman Meyer phrased it as follows: “Form and content are both material in the literary work of art . . . they belong to its structure insofar as they interact and help constitute the esthetic order of the work. ”[35]The distinction of subject (theme or topic), from form and content (meaning or message) is not contradictory to the strata model. In comparison, however, it is rather coarse - meshed. Nicolai Hartmann has opened our eyes to the fact that even the form of art is always graded or stratified[36]; that is to say, each stratum has its own form. This is evidenced by the fact that we can ask about each stratum (from material to world experience) with WHAT as well with HOW. If, for example, we deal in the second stratum of poetry with sensibly ordered word material, we would still have to ask how it is ordered (style). The various levels can only exist in a certain form, be it good or bad. It is therefore as inappropriate to ask for the form of a literary work of art as it is to confuse the content with the material of poetry. The content has, according to our model, at least four levels. Formation can apply to the psychological as well as to the representational level or the word material. Even meaning can comprise four to five levels.

Structural analysis has always rightly stressed the interaction of levels more than the levels themselves. Hartmann shows that “the formation of a single stratum, isolated, taken for itself, is not esthetic formation at all . . . The latter only begins with the succession of formations of various kinds. ”[37]

If for a moment we take as the “meaning of poetry” its last three levels, we would have to ask: how is it conveyed? The answer is: as in life. It is usually not stated directly, but appears in the external behavior of man, often merely in a small but typical segment of his environment; in short, in what is depicted by the preceding strata. The useful term transparency (Transparenz) therefore is to be understood as a shining of the last level through the first ones.

Why does the poet have to choose this detour, as Goethe demanded so emphatically (“Shape, artist! Don’t talk!”)? Why can s/he not state directly, what s/he wishes to tell us? - Because he can only make us “see” whatever s/he wants to show. The strata become increasingly more abstract as they recede. If s/he supplies us merely with psychological concepts, we have to flesh them out with intuition and imagination.

What about the seemingly shrewd distinction of “intention of the author” and “intention of the work”[38], if we understand “intention” here in the sense of our ninth stratum? - It proves to be false and misleading, since it intimates the notion, that anything could “flow into” the work that does not come (consciously or unconsciously) from the author. Assuming a basic conformity of strata in the author and in his work, it becomes easily understandable that not only the conscious levels of the poet’s personality shape the work, but also the unconscious ones (in varying degrees according to the type of author). This unconscious transference can even be extended: the poet is shaped by unconscious influences from his environment. In turn he shapes his work, which in its turn projects unconscious stimuli back into its social environment (the audience).

IX. Genre

Structures that qualify especially well as vehicles for expression of our standard experiences are repeated with slight variations. We call them “genres” or “kinds”. The strata of the literary work of art solidify at the same time into the individual structure of the specific work and into the relatively constant structure of the genre, depending on one’s point of view. Therefore, genres can be defined as groupings of literature having resemblances in the structure of their strata that especially qualify them for expressing basic human attitudes (Grundhaltungen) and experiences (Grunderlebnisse). From their only relative constancy (as opposed to classes in the natural sciences), it follows that they are not limiting, but rather accentuating or “ideal” concepts. Various genres are fixed structurally in varying degrees, e. g. , the sonnet more so than the novel.

The strata of a genre are held together by the same double dependency which also characterizes each single literary work: on the one hand, each level can only exist on the foundation of those under it; on the other hand, its character is determined by higher ones. [39]

Only literature of a grand scope (epic poem, novel, drama) develops all levels. But it seems that, in the single work as well as in a genre, no intermediate level may be omitted totally, since the next higher one always has to rest upon it. Even lyrical poetry, which does not contain action and conflict and which goes directly from the sphere of the external (2) or the representational (3) to the stratum of moods and emotions (5), only seems to constitute an exception. In reality even here the level of actions or life in movement (4) is not omitted totally: the voice assumed by the poet (das “sprechende Ich”) with which we identify as much as with the epic or dramatic figure, substitutes for the missing level. Without it, the literary work could not exist. For even if it often seems so, it is impossible that things speak to us directly. They are dead without the personal perspective of the “lyrical I”, however much the latter may be fused with them. Nevertheless, the characteristic manner and intensity in which the lyrical speaker is still present does contribute to the distinction of lyrical genres like sonnet and song. (New perspectives may be gained from these views for the examination of so - called “concrete poesy. ”[40])

“Ontological”, “phenomenological”, or “psychological” descriptions of genre do not exclude the historical one; rather they found and complement it. If one knows how something is constituted (ontological description) and why (psychological), the question of the historical and sociological circumstances under which it developed in a specific way is still not made superfluous. On the other hand, one only fully understands the history and environmental relation of any phenomenon following an examination under the aspects mentioned earlier.

X. The “Three Unities”

One aspect of the stratified formation of tragedy can be seen in the “three unities” much discussed since Aristotle. Their purpose is to aid concentration on a main effect (catharsis). In light of what has been said, we now instead of discussing only three unities have to discuss the unity of the linguistic “material”, the style, the representational formation of a segment of the world depicted, and the unity of the characters, together with their mimetic and linguistic delineation and psychological motivation, the unity of their actions and fates, and finally, that of their exemplary significance, which in turn reveals the unified world view of the author through theme and content. - All of these strata, if executed improperly, can distract the concentration of the audience. - The unity of action, which Lessing considered to be most important, is primarily related to the sixth and seventh strata, which directly sustain the stratum of symbolic representation. - The unity of place simply indicates that important energies in the drama can remain free for concentration on higher strata, if the objective aspect of the third stratum needs to be executed only once, and then remains unchanged. The unity of time takes into consideration the loss of interest, which may occur if characters are presented in overly long time intervals. Our identification with the protagonist is endangered if we must first ascertain whether he/she is still the same and his/her situation has not changed decisively.

XI. Artistic and Aesthetic Value:

Value categories like “immanent truth”, “appropriateness to the material”, “adequacy”, “functionality”, “economy”, “honesty”, “verisimilitude”, “genuineness”, etc. (partly overlapping as they are), may be assigned to certain strata as criteria for their formation.

More important is Ingarden’s differentiation between artistic and aesthetic values based in artistic and aesthetic objects. The artistic object (or artifact) contains “spots of indeterminacy” in all of its strata (e. g. , the poet cannot tell or describe everything, the painter cannot depict everything, etc. ). The recipient has to fill these in, which amounts to a “quasi - creative” act and can account to a large degree for the pleasure in experiencing art. Of course, this act of “concretizing” (konkretisieren) the spots of indeterminacy will be different in each case, depending on the personality structure and “horizon of expectations” (Jauss [44]) of the recipients. We know that the latter can change even within the same viewer in different stages of his/her development. For example, works that did not appeal to us in our youth later “open up” after we have acquired the maturity needed for their appreciation. We can therefore say that to each “artistic object” belong as many “aesthetic objects” as the former finds recipients.

Artistic values are only potential ones, since they (or better: some of them) have to be realized as aesthetic values in each individual act of “concretization” of an artistic artifact through a receiver. Even this act can be analyzed in terms of the strata model if we ask, for example, which strata have been determined (“filled in”) more strongly by the author, and which leave more freedom for the creativity of the recipient (e. g. , naturalism, leaving less freedom in the middle strata than symbolism, and so forth).

XII. “Strata Poetics” and the Question of Literary Value

What we often take to be value criteria (e. g. , Roman Ingarden’s or Nicolai Hartmann’s description of the stratification of a “literary work of art”, the concept of “autonomy”, or the criterion of “unity” or “wholeness” of a work of literature) are in reality merely structural, ontological, or phenomenological characterizations of a very general nature, which can also be applied to “kitsch” or trivial literature. “Strata Poetics“ has universal validity, but does not penetrate to an adequate aesthetical evaluation of literature. It might have done so, if its proponents would have succeeded in a more detailed and precise description of our experience of the stratification of literature. This, however, seems to be only possible for individual cases and not in general. Strata theory only describes pre - conditions for the aesthetical impact of literature in the process of the foreground - strata becoming transparent for the background - strata. (Nicolai Hartmann describes it as our “penetrating” the strata. [39])

[...]


[1] Der Aufbau der realen Welt. Grundriss der allgemeinen Kategorienlehre. Berlin, 1964.

[2] Nicolai Hartmann. Einführung in die Philosophie. Vorlesungsnachschrift. (Hannover, 1949) 121 - 122.

[3] ibid. 126

[4] Die Schichten der Persönlichkeit. Bonn, 1938; 1969. There we read in he "Foreword to the Sixth Edition" (III) : "The frequent comparisons of my theories with the ontology of Nicolai Hartmann surprisingly sug­gest, because we both use the word 'stratum' a deeper connection, which is not well considered. " On pages 109 and 167, however, Rothacker uses Hartmann's ontological laws in order to support his own theories. Compare also the first attempt at establishing a strata - model in Hermann Hoffmann's Die Schichttheorie (Stuttgart, 1935) and the comprehensive synthesis in Philipp Lersch's Der Aufbau der Person (München, 1956) A comprehensive international bibliography of typologies and stratologies in phil­osophy, psychology, art criticism and related fields with more than 3,000 titles (annotated) will be published by me this year (Typologien and Schichtenlehren. Amsterdam: Rodopi - Verlag, 1973).

[5] Ästhetik. Berlin, 1953; 21966.

[6] Rothacker goes even further(ibid. , p. 170): “. . . substantial strata, char­acterized by autonomous laws, correspond to their correlated 'environments' . zones of meaning, aimed only at them, which they derive from reality according to their intrinsic organization, and which offer them stimulation".

[7] Das literarische Kunstwerk. Tübingen, 1931; 1965 and Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerks. Darmstadt, 1968; also Untersuchungen zur Ontologie der Kunst. Tübingen, 1962. His attempt at establishing individual strata - models for the other arts cannot be discussed here.

[8] The numbers in brackets indicate in each case the resp. levels of the two authors, and later those of my synthesis.

[9] Einführung p. 126.

[10] The references to ontological strata, added in brackets, may be justified also by the following quotation from Hartmann : "The same strata, that could be shown in the real world, can also be found in the work of art and have to run through by the spectator : first a material level (in the work of art probably two), then one of life, then one of emotion, and finally a spiritual one. " (Einführung, p. 204)

[11] "Über den Begriff Struktur in der Dichtung". Neue Deutsche Hefte, 92 (1963)12. - Wolfgang Kayser: Das sprachliche Kunstwerk. Bern, 1959. - Emil Staiger: Die Kunst der Interpretation. 1963. See also Felix Krüger: Der Strukturbegriff in der Psychologie. Leipzig, 1924; 1931

[12] Ästhetik, pp. 235, 238, 240 and 249.

[13] ibid. , p. 240.

[14] This question was discussed again at the Fourth Amherst Colloquium on Modern German Literature: Psychologie in der Literaturwissenschaft (May 1. and 2. , 1970 University of Massachusetts) and no agreement was reached ; see my "Nachträglicher Diskussionsbeitrag' in Poesie und Wissenschaft, Bd. 32 (Heidelberg: L. Stiehm Verlag, 1971) 227 - 230.

[15] N. Hartmann (Ästhetik, pp. 238 - 39) “ . . . in appearence the formation of the anterior Stratum always stipulates the appearence of the one behind; in the composition of the work of art, however, and in the productive process of the artist the formation of the last strata determines the first. For the exterior is shaped, as it is, in order to let the formation of the interior shine through. Therefore it is determined by the last strata. The exterior levels exist for them. And in this sense the formation of the concrete foreground is determined by the last background - stratum. " - We would like to add: the "interior" can be unconscious to the poet. (All quotations above have been translated by me. )

[16] The analysis of "basic attitudes" fails into so - called "fundamental poetics" see especially Emil Staiger: Grundbegriffe der Poetik ((Zürich, 1946 ff. ) and W. Ruttkowski : Die literarischen Gattungen. Reflexionen über eine modifizierte Fundainentalpotik. (Bern, 1968) a comprehensive international bibliography of the poetics of literary genres has been published by me this year (München: Hueber - Verlag, 1973).

[17] Practical exemples are supplied in abundance by me in ,Gattungspoetik im Literaturunterricht. " Die Unterrichtspraxis, IV/2 (1971) 103 - 116.

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Title: Essays on aesthetics, poetics and terminology of literary studies